How "niche" can a module be?


RPG Superstar™ 2011 General Discussion

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Hydro

This is a sidetrack from Jerall Toi's adventure proposal (and the "hack and slash" verses "roleplay" debate), though it's something I've wondered for a while.

It seems to me like Pathfinder Modules can more afford to accommodate particular playstyles or niche audiences, at least when compared to the APs or Scenarios, because they aren't part of a series or subscription. DMs are only going to buy them one at a time, and only if they like what they read on the back cover, so I would expect it to be better to have a module that really "grabs" a smaller range of gamers, verses one that merely appeases or is palatable to a wider range of gamers.

Not that an RPGS proposal shouldn't have mass appeal, just that there's less pressure for a stand-alone adventure to please EVERYONE, especially compared to an adventure that's merely one part of a 6-part campaign.

Does this at all reflect the way that Paizo thinks about their modules? What about the way buyers think about them?

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6

I must confess that I am not a buyer of published GMing material, but I run for a very large group which can be hard to satisfy with a scripted adventure, so this may make my input somewhat less valid from the GM side of the coin. I'm into writing elaborate world changing stories which pan out over years, so a module will never really do it for me. Though I have been thinking long and hard about running some lower key stuff once my current campaign is off the table, at which point I'll invariably want to run the strangest, most fringe stuff available, owing to my players love for exploring new and complex character concepts.

As a player I have played in a few scripted campaigns and have come to a pretty unanimous conclusion; our group of players is game-breaking. To be fair I have only played in non-paizo adventures (Expedition to the Demonweb, and Savage Tide), so I'm not sure how the written PFR stuff compares. In Demonweb, by the time we got to the final encounter (a council of aspect demon lords or their representatives) we were so tooled up that we didn't even break pace, just marched across the room. The game intends for the party to sneak and pick their way across the room to confront Lolth, but we just up and killed everything. I (elf ranger, mounted, longbow) dealt more than 1000 damage crossing the room, and another player (fey-touched sorcerer) turned out to be immune to every spell that the aspect of Lolth had prepared. Now some of this, I'm sure, is due to an inherent amount of munchkinism present in many expert players, but sometimes players just make choices which are accidentally game breaking.

I think the more vanilla a printed offering is, the more susceptible it is to this kind of break. As both a GM and player who runs into (or causes) this effect nearly every time I play, I find that I'm drawn to the more fringe stuff because players are more likely to embrace the difference in the story, rather than trying to engineer "different" with their characters and actions. There's not so much "look what I can do!" when the story itself has the player off balance, and that's important to me.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 8 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8 aka John Benbo

In general, I prefer to run my own adventures, however, I turn to modules when I'm unexpectedly called on to GM and I don't have anything prepared (I'm not someone who just likes to wing it). So when I look for a module, I look for something that I think the players would enjoy playing and I would enjoy running. This means that the module shouldn't be niche but contain a mixture of both roleplaying opportunities and combat encounters. My particular group tends to get bored if it is just straight one or the other. For Paizo, I think it is in their best interest to not be niche. They are still a growing company, and putting together a module, plus printing, is expensive. It behooves them to try to appeal to both groups (roleplayers and powergamers) vs. only one of them and less sales.

Sczarni RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 , Champion Voter Season 6, Champion Voter Season 7, Champion Voter Season 8, Champion Voter Season 9

My biggest problems with modules are that they tend to be too specific as to where they can be played. I buy alot of modules and just mine them for extra content, locations, and NPCs. In my games, I usually prepare a general story outline, flesh out a few locations and NPCs, and wing the rest. Usually about 2-3 hours of work for 8 hrs of play. When I don't have even time to do that, out comes a module. I can try to spend a few minutes before the game to flip through and plan changes while my players wait impatiently. Or wing it and hope the players won't notice.

I would like to see modules that could easily be placed in any area. Tunnels/sewers, haunted house, market, wizard's tower, and so forth. Changing minor bits of flair is easier than trying to drop any module I happen to own into whatever part of Golarion my players are in. I keep a few mini-modules I have created around to distract the players or give me some time to mentally script the next bit of story if they have done something unexpected. In one campaign, I threw the same tower at the party 3 times by the time they finally noticed at level 11.

I would like modules laid out similar to how the PFS scenarios are done. Same location but different scales for the encounters. A haunted house that could be scaled for 4 different levels. And maybe a few different flavor text paragraphs to make it seem appropriate to different locations. Once you get inside, only minor decorative changes will be noted.

Don't aim for specifics, but generalize. I think the story is what makes memorable adventure. Everything else is just icing.

Sczarni RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32

For me, I think a niche module makes it MORE marketable. I don't subscribe to modules, and I usually only mine them for dynamic encounters, story ideas, maps, characters, locations, etc. I don't think I've ever run a module form beginning to end how it's supposed to be.

If there is a good module that does something different (which I think Jerall's proposal does), I'd be more likely to pick it up because it's different than many other modules out there. The strong investigative slant and the opportunity to see how the PCs fare working for (or against) the church of Asmodeus are the two elements that really drew me to Isgeri Blood and Orphans' Tears. I ended up voting for Gears of Madness in the end, but it was really close.

I know Gears of Madness was also criticized for being a niche of a niche for combining steampunk and lovecraft elements. Personally, that's what made it stand out in the end for me and got my vote. I thought some proposals were better written, and I like the plot/story aspects of a couple other modules, but the genres themselves dovetailed perfectly for me. I can guarantee that if his module gets produced I'll buy it.

In TSR/WotC days, Forgotten Realms and Greyhawk never excited me. I bought the FR gray box 20 years ago, but haven't touched a book from either setting since. I don't really see much point in buying generic fantasy settings. Planescape, Spelljammer, Dark Sun, and Eberron, however all interested me enough to get me to buy those campaign settings. KQ's Zobeck interests me. And I really like some of the non-traditional regions of Golarion, like Cheliax and Alkenstar.

I recognize I might not represent most of Paizo's customers, but I'm far more likely to buy something that seems niche or "gonzo," just because it inspires me or catches my attention.


Nicolas Quimby wrote:
It seems to me like Pathfinder Modules can more afford to accommodate particular playstyles or niche audiences, at least when compared to the APs or Scenarios, because they aren't part of a series or subscription. DMs are only going to buy them one at a time,

Incorrect. Modules are part of a subscription.

Nicolas Quimby wrote:
What about the way buyers think about them?

I fully expect to be able to insert a Pathfinder Module (from the modules line) into my home campaign (which is not Golarion).

Bonus: It just so happens that my home campaign has most aspects that are found in Golarion.

For example, a (slightly) steampunk adventure with Lovecraft elements would fit into my home campaign.

Star Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

I think the line from the FAQ for each round's rules might be appropriate here: We at Paizo do not see these two as opposites (to paraphrase :)

That said in the one shot modules the niche is a good way to go from a marketing stand-point. It might draw in some people who otherwise do not buy stuff and a lot of RPGSS is about the marketability of the company. (I say a lot, but I only surmise that from the 'no child endangerment' and 'no vomit jokes' in SKR's advice threads :)

But in a proposal (as round 5 actually is) niche is not the way to go. Paizo needs X type of adventures here and Y type adventures there. Unless you know if they are here or there you will want to appeal to the broadest audience available. In the editing process, they will then (hopefully?) tell you which direction this needs to go for the finished project.

I will now have to compare Christine's, Neil's and Matt's proposals compared to the final products and see if this theory holds any water :) (and plan my next entry approprately :)

Dark Archive Contributor , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Boxhead

I much prefer niche modules. I have plenty of adventures, so I really like anything coming out now to be a bit different. I also find that the APs really cover me for "generic" plug-and-play adventures (as odd as that sounds). Most of the APs have great long dungeons and other iconic elements.

Most of my favourite modules are "niche" adventures, things like Hangman's Noose, Entombed with the Pharoahs, From Shore to Sea and Carrion Hill.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 8 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8 aka John Benbo

Eric Hindley wrote:

I much prefer niche modules. I have plenty of adventures, so I really like anything coming out now to be a bit different. I also find that the APs really cover me for "generic" plug-and-play adventures (as odd as that sounds). Most of the APs have great long dungeons and other iconic elements.

Most of my favourite modules are "niche" adventures, things like Hangman's Noose, Entombed with the Pharoahs, From Shore to Sea and Carrion Hill.

Carrion Hill was my first experience with Pathfinder/Paizo. We were playing with a new GM and he'd just picked up. We were still running 3x and I remember:

Spoiler:
the chaos beast in the asylum almost killed our ranger in one round. That was our first real Paizo monster and we were like "What the heck is wrong with this game?" We slammed the door shut and ran for our lives

I have no problems with niche modules. For a smaller company like Paizo, I can see why they may want to make their modules appeal to a broader audience so they can sell more. As for Carrion Hill, it might be niche in that it is definitely Lovecraftian, but as far as play styles, it does incorporate a good balance of roleplay and combat plus and open sandbox feel with a definitive end.

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